Category Archives: Uncategorized

New website!

After much testing, stress, aggravation and code, I’ve finally created myself my own website and domain name.

This blog is no longer going to be updated, but I’ve migrated all existing posts and comments over there, so if you want to continue to comment and discuss feel free to do so!

http://josephstashko.com

Advertisements

“I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd”

So, I think this could prove to be controversial. At least, to the one internet drifter who happens to stumble across my small hut in cyberspace. Quentin Tarantino has lost it. There, I said it. While film critics have largely been saying this for the last six or seven years, it seems that I’m very much in the minority with this view when it comes to people in their twenties.

This is not an all out attack on QT, this is a study of a man who had something special, and then squandered it. There is no doubt in my mind that he has made three excellent films. Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown all stand out as triumphs in modern cinema. Whether you like his referential style, copious violence and wisecracking script or not, these films can’t help but be appreciated as brilliant works. So how did he so spectacularly lose the ability to make such defining films? I think the answer is, the river of ideas drying up, as well as becoming a figure of self parody.
In Inglorious Basterds, his latest flick, there’s a close-up of a bowl of cream while a conversation is taking place over a dinner table. The close up used in this style has become one of the Tarantino trademarks along with the trunk shot, and long, lingering takes. However, the difference is that before, Tarantino was using these embellishments to drive the story forward, to provide a different take on familiar situations and to render anticipation in the viewer’s mind. Now he seems to include these begrudgingly in order to make the film seem his. Quentin Tarantino is trying too hard to make a Quentin Tarantino film. One doesn’t feel that he creates films by an organic process anymore, but that he sits at his desks discussing scripts thus: “Ah yes, we’ll have a trunk shot there….then in the next scene, that’ll have a femme fatale in…oh and throw in a mexican standoff”

Tarantino’s dedication to homages and tributes has, as above, turned from witty referencing to cloying and tiresome. In “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” each major character is accompanied by a little vignette, and a freeze frame outlines their respective characters as “The Good” “The Bad” and “The Ugly”. Tarantino creates an obvious tribute to this in Inglorious Basterds, outlining the various Basterds in these small onscreen character profiles. Whereas in Sergio Leone’s western, these depictions are used to good effect, to set up the story, under Tarantino’s clumsy direction, they become tiresome. Eli Roth’s character is introduced as “The Bear Jew”. I was expecting a monster colossus of a man. Instead we get Roth, hardly well built,  wielding a baseball bat. Are we expected to find this clever, amusing or fearsome? It ends up being none of these.
In the aforementioned first three films by Tarantino, he used his knowledge of trashy cinema, integrated with snappy dialogue and cartoonish violence to create films which were exciting, humourous and unpredictable. He has failed to achieve this in any of his films since Kill Bill Vol. 1.
I put forward the argument that a blockbuster like Transformers can be considered superior to Tarantino’s  efforts this millennium. It is easy to see the motives of the likes of Transformers, Hancock, Independence Day, et al. Their chief goal is a money spinning enterprise, providing big, dumb entertainment “for all the family”. It’s an effort to pack as many people into multiplex cinemas as possible to reap the biggest financial award. But, and here’s the clincher, have they ever purported to be anything but that? Tarantino’s slew of latest films are junk masquerading as high art, and he has struck back at critics deeming them “unworthy” saying they don’t understand him. Doesn’t that sound a bit like the hormonal teenager whose parents have been honest about their son’s “eclectic” musical taste?
The horrible thing is that besides reasoned film critics, his army of devoted fans and sycophantic chat show hosts like Jonathan Ross manage to keep the idea going that he is still the prodigal enfant terrible of American cinema. When you find yourself yawning halfway through a Tarantino film, you have to ask yourself, if he based his early triumphs on keeping the viewer locked in with intrigue and expectancy, once these facets have faded, what does he have left?
Tarantino has run out of ideas. He should take a leaf from the Coen Brothers’ book, who manage to create films with their signature stamp on, but can never be said to have created identikit films.

Gregg Wallace is an idiot

The title says it all really.

He’s exactly the type of nouveauriche fool who I fully expect to take up residence in greater London in some sort of ostentatious mansion, but not to actually be in the media spotlight.

The fact that this man is employed, is frankly, offensive. I can’t get over how massive his head is.
Seriously, it’s huge. Not only is it huge, but it looks like someone has got a face the size of a room, then tried to squash it down to normal size. Yet still failing, because his face looks like it’s fighting to burst out, and go on a killing spree or something.

Anatomy issues aside, the man is a complete scumbag. Whilst undertaking some investigative journalism (i.e. donning a parka, adopting the walk of a rambunctious young lad and generally looking like a bit of an idiot) I quizzed some stall owners at Covent Garden Market about their history with the above named Mr Wallace.

Wishing to remain anonymous (presumably because Wallace runs a militant arm of Masterchef, who come round your house and scream in your face that “COOKING DOESN’T GET ANY HARDER THAN THIS” repeatedly, until you’re a sobbing wretch), I was surprised to hear a range of different views from stallholders.

They ranged from a simple “what a tosser”, to: “He still owes me money, if he ever came down here again, he’d be lynched”.

So it’s not just me then, clearly. He should be ousted from his post at the BBC, ordered to pay back all the money he owes to various stallholders, and replaced with a younger, less aggressive type on Masterchef. I was thinking someone who possesses a rakish charm, a philandering sense of self and a passion for cooking that would make Delia look like a Little Chef employee. I am of course, talking about myself, I’m the obvious candidate, so hi Mark Thompson, if you’ve any sense, sign me up.

Oh dear.

Sunday afternoon. South East London.
As I didn’t have much to do I decided to go to the cinema, where Greenwich Picturehouse do matinees for a fiver.

After the film (Shifty, excellent), I popped into the toilet for a cheeky piss. As there was virtually no one in the cinema, I was looking forward to the moment of quiet reflection one can get from standing alone at the urinal.

Or so I thought.
A noise which can only be described as a cacophony made itself known from one of the cubicles. Think the beach landing from Saving Private Ryan.

I paused for a moment. “Oh God, it’s someone having a fit of internal combustion in the cubicle, and he doesn’t know I’m in here, so won’t show any restraint.” I had to act fast, to let him know that I’m here. I softly reached over to the door, and pulled it open, letting it slam back against it hinges, denoting that someone had entered the room.

Silence.

Brilliant. It’s worked, I thought. Now all I need to do is wash my hands before…”PLOP PLOP PLOP!”.
Oh no, he’s still doing it. He knows I’m here, yet he continues! Suddenly I becamse painfully aware of the sound of toilet paper being used, trousers being pulled up. I’ve got to get out of here. There’s no way I can look the man who provided the sound effects for Platoon in the eye. But it’s too late. The cubicle door is opening, he’s approaching the sink.

Silence.

“Nice day today isn’t it mate?” he pipes up.

“Yeah, nice and sunny I guess” I awkwardly reply.

“Nice and quiet after the Marathon”

You have got to be shitting me.

With that I was out the door, running down Greenwich High street in the vain hope that I’d find something to take my mind off things. You just don’t want that on a Sunday Afternoon.

Just let it be…

With all the recent media coverage about atheism and Richard Dawkins shtick, I thought I’d have a crack at making some sense of it.

I think the atheism movement, or “fundamentalist atheism” as I like to call it, has rather hit a brick wall. Their entire argument is the existence of God, rather, the lack of. So where do they go from here? Endlessly reiterating the same point does nothing to substantiate or progress the argument.

Before I dive headfirst into this, I’d like to say that I’m bringing a fairly neutral perspective to the table, in that I am fairly unsure myself as to the existence of a higher power. To me, the God/no God argument is irrelevant. I’m more interested in the basis for such opinions being formed.

On the whole, us humans object to someone stating the bleeding obvious. Being patronised, having something shoved in our face is the sort of thing we don’t like. Dawkins and his followers of staunch atheists relish in ramming their beliefs down our throats. What other groups share this contemptible characteristic. Oh yes, fiercely religious sects of course. I’m just as pissed off when The God Delusion thrust my way as “compulsory reading” as when I’m approached by the Hare Krishna’s. “But they’re a bunch of deluded religious loonies!” I hear you cry. Perhaps. But are you going to begrudge the fact that Christianity gave my late grandparents great strength when times were tough? Delusional they may have been, but to derive such cast iron will from religion to get through the worst of times cannot be mocked.

“Ah yes, granny and grandad going to church is fine, but what about September 11th?”

A lot of the war and conflict in this world is based on differing aspects of faith. Dawkins argues that religion is an evil tool in this sense. Let me put forward a comparison for you:

If guns were outlawed in America tomorrow, what would happen? Would crime cease? No. Criminals would go on using them, and now the general public would be defenceless. Guns have been freely available in North America for years, and a law isn’t going to stop those with the intent to commit crime from using them.

Likewise, citing Islamic fundamentalists as a reason why religion is evil is pointedly short sighted and naive. That’s right, I’m calling atheists naive. Whether organised religion was around or not, these people would still be out to cause trouble. Atheists seem to think that if they get everyone converted the weapons will be laid down. Are they really so arrogant that they think they can overturn belief systems which are based on thousands of years of knowledge? It’s like trying to overturn the myth that everyone who went to Oxford is a sparkling font of intellectual power.

In a way, I almost want the Christian afterlife to be correct. That way I can have a good old chuckle in purgatory while Dawkins is forced to kiss the feet of a Christian Fellowship, a situation that surely takes on hellish proportions in his mind.

We love Valentine’s!

I decided to originally write a scathing attack on the whole Valentines Day shebang, having spent the last 3 years very alone on February 14th. I then realised that this is what everyone else in the known universe is writing about, so instead I’m just doing a small post on what I got up to the other day.

I cycled into Greenwich, with the intent of buying a book, perhaps having a coffee and then wandering around Greenwich Market. I had almost forgotten that it was Valentines Day, only to be reminded when everyone on the street seemed to come as a pair.

It’s the curse of Valentine’s Day that everyone who is part of a couple is tainted by assumptions that they’re getting lovey-dovey all day. There I was standing in the off licence cum grocery, when lo and behold; a couple came in to buy some groceries. How dare they, I thought. Look at them, smugly holding hands whilst they check out the frozen food isle. As they mulled over whether to buy minestrone or oxtail soup I had to leave the shop otherwise the phrase GBH would soon be marching with ill-deserved confidence in the direction of this situation. It’s only because they happened to go shopping on Valentine’s Day that this happened, mind. Any other day of the year, perfectly acceptable. Today however, pity the poor sod who trots out of his front door to pick up a few essentials with his missus, because he’s going to have daggers looked at him from every footloose person within a 2 mile radius.

Off licence incident aside, I actually had a pretty pleasant afternoon. For once I’d actually put on enough layers so that my testicles wouldn’t retreat into my abdomen, and I was enjoying aimlessly strolling, sipping my coffee.
However, as I went to unchain my bike, the piece de resistance hove into view, and shattered my brief fantasy that “Hey, Valentine’s Day isn’t that bad after all”. It’s one thing being one of the only single men on the high street. It’s another thing entirely when people who look like they’ve swallowed walrus DNA stride into view, with a slightly smug look at you as if to say “Yes! I know I have the personality of a pine-cone, but tonight I’ll be getting some hot carnal action, unlike you!” That’s a real kick in the teeth, that is.

So I got on my bike and pedalled away, safe in the knowledge that there was a giant tub of Cookie Dough ice cream waiting for me when I got home.

Criminal Difference

Reading the Observer this morning, an article by Mark Hodkinson delved into the brutal murder of Sophie Lancaster. Her only crime it seems, was that she looked “different”. Dressed in her jet black goth attire, her and boyfriend Robert Maltby, 21, were attacked by a gang of teenagers in a local park in Bacup, Lancashire.
This story, though not new, is particularly shocking to me. While knife crime amongst the young in London seems to be on the up, I have begun to stop feeling surprised. In the majority of cases, the young victims of knife crime have some form of gang links, if not personally, through their family. While the mass media would have you believe that anyone, anywhere can be stabbed, the reality is far from the truth. I’m a tall, slim man who dresses at times, in a very flamboyant manner. Yet I have only been involved in one knife related incident, which was infact nothing to do with my appearance, but something different entirely. What I’m trying to say is, London can be dangerous, but not half as dangerous as the 6 O’ Clock News would have us believe. Which is what makes the brutal beatings of Sophie Lancaster so shocking.
From what I can gather, Sophie was incredibly bright. She had finished school with 3 A Levels, and was taking a Gap Year before hoping to enroll at a college. She didn’t have any criminal connections, nor did her boyfriend at the time. I’ve recieved abuse frequently in the street for my appearance, but there is a difference between a builder giving a sarcastic wolf whistle, and him beating your face to a pulp. These attacks weren’t for any monetery or material gain on the part of the teenage gang, purely for the fact that this young couple chose to live an alternative lifestyle. It harks back to the violence which sparked civil rights movements in Alabama under Martin Luther King. People used violence as an outlet for their insecurity and jealousy.
What also interested me is the two vastly opposing outlooks on life that the protagonists in this tragic tale had. Gothic subculture is defined by a complete openness, to sexuality, race, lifestyle and upbringing. The macabre clothes and dark music comes almost as an afterthought. I’ve never met any Goths who haven’t been friendly, their world view refreshingly free of prejudice. On the other hand, the teenage gang led by Brendan Harris, 15, and Ryan Herbert, 16, seem to embody the kind of Middle England “us and them” culture that I believed to be all but eradicated. In a day in which even staunchly dogmatic enterprises like the Catholic Church are coming round to the idea of moving with the times, its frankly disgusting that these teenagers feel the need to behave like this.
Luckily, the mother of Sophie, Sylvia Lancaster, has decided that activism is in fact the right course of action. She has set up the S.O.P.H.I.E (Stamp Out Prejudice Hatred & Intolerance Everywhere) organisation, in order to broadcast Sophie’s story to a wider public arena. There have been concerts dedicated to her in the UK, US and Australia.
I hope sincerely that this is an isolated case, that the fact that these teenagers came from severely rough backgrounds means that they are an exception to the rule that Britain is becoming more tolerant of alternative lifestyles.